I was recently banned from entering Canada for two years and placed on strict probation for lobbing a tofu cream pie into the face of Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.
Political pieings are nothing new — everyone from Anita Bryant to Bill Gates has been pied over the years — but you might be wondering what would drive someone to dish out (and risk going to jail for) such a public form of protest.
In my case, I was making a statement against Canada’s annual slaughter of baby seals, the largest massacre of marine mammals on the planet. Despite the fact that seals, like polar bears and other ice-breeding animals, are threatened by climate change — because of poor ice conditions, biologists warn that as many as half the seal pups born in Atlantic Canada this year could perish — the Canadian government continues to allow sealers to kill hundreds of thousands of harp seals each year for their fur.
I targeted Ms. Shea because she defends this indefensible slaughter in an apparent attempt to curry favor with the fishing industry. The commercial seal slaughter — which accounts for about 97 percent of all massacred seals — is nothing more than an off-season profit venture for fishermen off Canada’s eastern coast.
And while she admits that she’s never personally witnessed how painfully the seals die, Shea has no qualms about calling the slaughter “humane.” Observers of previous seal slaughters have seen conscious baby seals stabbed with boat hooks and dragged across the ice as well as wounded pups who were left to choke on their own blood as sealers rushed to attack the next helpless victim.
While other world leaders, including President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, have denounced this massacre, Shea is perhaps the strongest and most vocal advocate of the seal slaughter. Lately, she has been trying to peddle seal fur and meat in China — with little success — all in an attempt to drum up the market for a product that no one needs or wants. The U.S. and the European Union have both banned seal fur.
Looking back on my actions, I realize that there were a number of issues that I did not consider. A little tofu pie on someone’s face is hardly comparable to the blood on Canadian officials’ hands, but my actions could have caused someone in the audience to be injured.
And I never considered the possibility that the few people in favor of the seal massacre might retaliate against others who were peacefully protesting it. This is exactly what happened just a few days later when a PETA protester in Prince Edward Island was violently pushed to the ground and had a pie ground into her face. No one was charged in that incident.
I didn’t consider the extent of the consequences of my actions in protesting the seal slaughter, and for this, I am regretful. But I don’t regret taking a stand against the shameful slaughter, as caring people around the world have done. It’s time for the Canadian government to recognize that shooting and clubbing seals for their fur is out of step with people’s evolved attitudes toward animals. It’s time for Canada to end this national disgrace.
Hopefully, by the end of my probation, Canada’s bloody seal massacre will be nothing but a sad memory and I will be able to visit Canada once again — as a tourist, not a protester.
Emily McCoy is the founder of Daisy Dog Studio (www.DaisyDogStudio.com). She wrote this on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.